Couples who are trying to conceive may find that understanding how ovulation and fertility work will help to achieve a positive pregnancy test. While some couples are successful within a few months of trying without tracking ovulation, others may find it beneficial to do so to avoid missing the opportunity to conceive each month.
When a woman and her partner are trying to get pregnant, they should time intercourse preferably two to three days before ovulation. Ovulation occurs when a woman’s ovary releases an egg or ovum and it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. During intercourse, the male sperm is released and travels up to the egg. If a single sperm cell is successful at reaching the ovum and penetrates it, fertilization has taken place. The fertilized egg continues its journey to the uterus where it implants into the uterine wall.
Some women have very regular 28 day cycles. A woman’s cycle begins with the first day of her menstrual cycle and continues to the start of the next menstrual cycle. In a 28 day cycle, ovulation is thought to occur around the 14th day. If ovulation occurs on the 14th day of the cycle, then the time between ovulation to the start of the next menstrual cycle (known as the luteal phase), would be roughly 14 days as well. (It is important to note that ovulation timing can vary month to month.)
Other women may find their cycles are shorter or longer than 28 days. In some cases, the difference can be within a few days while others will have much longer cycles. When this happens, knowing when ovulation will take place is more difficult. Assuming the luteal phase is 14 days is not always appropriate in all cases, therefore women must track monthly to learn their body’s own unique cycle.
To learn when ovulation regularly occurs, women can opt to track their basal body temperature. The basal body temperature is the lowest daily temperature of the body first thing in the morning. This temperature is taken using a basal body thermometer because this type of thermometer records temperature to the hundredth degree.
It is important to take the temperature as soon as the woman wakes up. Any movement can raise the body’s heat and become inaccurate. In addition, taking the temperature at the same time each day is important because as the day goes on the body’s temperature naturally rises. Setting an alarm to wake up at a certain time each day and having the thermometer by the bedside makes the process easier to follow and remember.
The temperature should be written down and recorded onto a line chart. Before ovulation, the temperature will be fairly steady with up to a .5 degree difference. Right before ovulation, some women experience a slight dip in temperature. Once ovulation has taken place, the temperature will spike higher than the baseline temperature or the highest previously recorded temperature.
This temperature increase will stay for the remainder of the luteal phase until the start of the next period. If the temperature has decreased back to the level of the recordings before ovulation, then pregnancy has not occurred. However, if temperatures continue to stay high and menstruation has not started, it is good time to take a home pregnancy test. Some women may even experience an additional temperature increase if they are pregnant.
Tracking two to three cycles to see when ovulation occurs on average will help a woman know when she and her partner should time intercourse.